And The Bradscribe Award For Best Sci-Fi Of The Year Goes To…

The Bradscribe Awards 2015: What Was Best: Maz, Max, Mish Or Machina?

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The academy may pride itself on its history, but the world around it is changing, and unless it begins to reflect these changes, I can see the Oscars ceasing to be of any relevance to a growing and vocal new generation of artists who see it as a relic of the old world” – David Harewood.  

Hello and welcome to the Bradscribe Awards!

As we were blessed with a year brimming with various cinematic nuggets to choose from, it’s only fair to review it in our own lavish ceremony. And besides, many of you have been wondering – especially as this site has slagged off more than its fair share of crud these past twelve months – what actually managed to impress me during 2015!

One thing you can be certain about the Bradscribe Awards – activated to honour the criminally-overlooked field of science fictionthey are bright and visionary. And diverse. Nominees can be black, brown, blue or green. Or shiny and chrome. 

Also, there’s lots of cake on offer…

Why Don’t The Oscars Celebrate SF?

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“It is a genre that I think doesn’t get enough respect when you consider how many issues sci-fi brings up that we need to deal with” – Sigourney Weaver.

There seems to be an unwritten rule stipulating that science fiction – and fantasy, and horror, come to that – do not receive awards recognition in the main categories. Sure, the Academy recognises the technical achievements of this genre, but really, you can quite easily find some of the best scripts and acting in this continually innovative field.

In trying to sort this migraine out, trust longtime Bradscribe fave, Sigourney Weaver, to come to the rescue:

“The work being done in sci-fi is some of the most interesting, provocative work out there.”

Yet why should this genre tend to make little impact when Oscar season gets into full swing?

She has remarked how the Academy consists of “mostly people like me who are over a certain age” who tend to look for the “the more conventional movie.”

Uff, nuts to that. 

Part of SF’s wonder is its ability to offer more unconventional thrills. Rather than get stuck in the same mundane, formulaic soup – which, let’s be honest, too many mainstream dramas do – the genre is experimental and challenging, vital components sought, surely, by the modern movie-goer.

Before launching into the main ceremony, here’s a little sketch to get you warmed up. Hey, it was either this, or a flashy-but-ultimately-pointless song-an’-dance extravaganza: 

Without further ado, let’s get down to the essential categories:

Best SFX: Mad Max: Fury Road

Jurassic World just looked big; Star Wars: The Force Awakens looked impressive, but Namibia nabbed it.  

Best Music Score: Mad Max: Fury Road

This would have been set aside for John Williams – continuing the fine tradition of classic scores for Star Wars – but on first viewing, the new score was barely discernible. 

Best Original Screenplay: Ex Machina

Intellectually-stimulating sci-fi is what we crave at this site. Nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar, how it did not win last night is my pet peeve of this year’s ceremony. 

Congrats to Alex Garland, who made his directorial debut with this instant classic. Here, honestly, this Award was as predictable as that Titanic boy getting the Best Actor Oscar… 

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Martian 

Drew Goddard worked wonders with Andrew Weir’s novel.

Rising Star Of The Year 

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“It’s important that the conversation carries on… Everybody should be the change they want to see and go from there, but keep talking, keep doing” – John Boyega. 

This Rogue Stormtrooper received most of the biggest laughs at the packed cinema this reviewer attended. While everybody is quite rightfully lauding Daisy Ridley as the new New Hope – an equally impressive entry to the SW galaxy, we should not overlook this young and promising boy from Peckham. The Oscars have, but Brad hasn’t…

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Let’s assess candidates for the Woman Of The Year and Man Of The Year:

Woman Of The Year 

Always keen to catch strong and memorable women’s roles, especially in SF. However, there seemed to be fewer notable women’s roles on offer this year. Emilia Clarke should have brought in an exceptional Sarah Connor, but had weak material with which to work; and Bryce Dallas Howard made a mark only by outrunning a T Rex. In high heels. Never gonna let that lie… 

But who made it onto the final list? 

Honestly, Sigourney should be here – for old times sake – but Chappie was so underwhelming; even she couldn’t make it bearable. Instead, we have plumped for:

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5. Scarlet Witch 

It was great to see Wanda Maximoff on the big screen at last, but so frustrating that she had so little to do, and had barely any “character” to develop sufficiently. Oh well, hope she gets more (worthy) screentime in the forthcoming Captain America: Civil War… 

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4. Maz Kanata

Maz is over one hundred years old, and she had – until those First Order loons swept in and trashed the place! – her own swell pad at which anyone in the galaxy can hang out; even got her own awesome statue outside it(!). She happens to possess Luke’s lightsaber, and also counts Chewie as her boyfriend. Way ta go, girl! 

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3. Imperator Furiosa

When Mad Max made his energising and explosive return to the big screen, little did anyone expect that Cherlize Theron would not only steal Immortan Joe’s War-Rig, but steal all the scenes in the year’s most explosive actionfest. Her presence was so seismic that the subtitle should have read: Furiosa Road. 

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2. Alicia Vikander

As Eva: the AI centre of attention in Ex Machina this Swedish actress made an immediate impact. And held her own against the big boys in The Man From UNCLE. Already looking forward to her next projects.

Congrats to Alicia for confounding the run of play by snatching the Best Supporting Actress gong; but really, she deserved the Best Actress Oscar. For a vastly more impressive picture…

This girl should go far. We hope. 

1. Not surprisingly, the Real Greatest Woman of this – and, for that matter, every other – year just happens to be – unreservedly, wholeheartedly: Mrs. B, but seeing how we really should be talkin’ about movie stars (and me darlin’ still won’t reverse that online pics ban) let’s move swiftly on. 

But in case you’re still wondering, you can find the Woman Of The Year here:

And now, on to the:

Man Of The Year 

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5. Ant-Man.

Always a personal fave comic character, it seemed inconceivable how the tiniest Avenger could transfer easily onto the big screen. Initially, Paul Rudd looked like a disastrous case of miscasting, but he helped make this little movie the surprise package of the year. 

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4. Andy Serkis

The actor most synonymous with motion capture – who lit up the Bradmonitor when he first crawled onscreen as Gollum – not only brought us our new villain of the Dark Side: Supreme Leader Snoke, but a traditional live action nasty called Ullysses Klaw in Avengers: Age of Ultron. 

Always a treat to watch, Serkis is the only reason to look forward to yet another Planet of the Apes sequel. 

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3. Kylo Ren

The villain of the long-awaited new Star Wars episode, had to make a rather special impact. Fotunately, Kylo Ren did just that. How many times has Brad replayed that scene of him staggering through the dark forest, then energising his lightsaber? Guess that correctly, dear reader, and YOU can have a slice of cake… 

Best Supporting Actor Award for Adam Driver methinks?

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2. Ultron

“Look at me! Do I look like Iron Man?!”

Traditionally a formidable villain in the Avengers comic, a certain degree of trepidation led up to the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron. 

No worries! They got the look just right. Voiced malevolently by the Amazing Spader-Man, he turned out to be supercool as well as superbad! And he was blessed with oodles of great lines! 

In any other year, Ultron would have stolen this category, but there was one fella who managed to impress me even more, and that was: 

1. Oscar Isaac

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“There’s some stuff he’s got in his tool set which is properly rare. Fierce talent, that’s what you want – and that’s exactly what Oscar’s got. You don’t need to be a filmmaker to see it” – Alex Garland. 

You may be thinking this was staged so that yours truly could chortle: “And the oscar goes to Oscar!”

Ha ha, no really, ever since spotting him steal scenes from the Crowe way back in Ridley Scott’s otherwise lacklustre Robin Hood, Isaac has been carving a very special niche in modern movies. He gave one of the best performances of the year in Ex Machina, but Poe Dameron was woefully underused.

We just can’t wait to see him steal the show as the eponymous archvillain in X-Men: Apocalypse!

Right? 

Crud Of The Year 

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“It was stupid. It was trash… It was not a flop that quietly came and went without anyone noticing. It got the disrespect it deserved” – Joe Queenan.

Gotta take the rough with the smooth, so they say, but even so…

It’s hard to believe, but 2015 still manage to serve up some particularly underwhelming duds. Rather than rant eloquently about the ever-dwindling standard of movie-making, let’s get these turkeys out of the way, sharpish:

Chappie; Fant4stic Four; Jupiter Ascending; Pixels; Terminator: Genisys;

Even presented with the offer of sitting through this abysmal cack for free, you still couldn’t entice me. Honestly, you would think Game Of Thrones adequately paid Peter Dinklage’s rent, so why did he have to get involved in this tragedy? 

Let’s cheer ourselves up with the:

Magic Moments Of The Year 

Well, bless my frickin’ quarnex battery! Here are the most awesome scenes to have graced our local popcorn parlours this past year:

5. 2015 Arnie vs. 1984 Arnie in Terminator: Genisys

You can’t beat nostalgia. A stylish nod to the classic scene from the original Terminator movie. If only the rest of the movie was as cool as this. One to search for on Youtube only.

4. T Rex vs. Indominus Rex from Jurassic World

This fourth installment of the Dinoland franchise may not have wrangled its way onto my Best of The Year list, but the climactic scrap between these two giants evokes the spirit of the original Jurassic Park. An extra slice of cake for that Mosasaurus 😉 If anyone can get near it, that is…

3. Kylo Ren stops a laser blast in midair

 So Snoke says Kylo needs to complete his training. If he can do that, his powers look pretty formidable to us!   

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2. That Ex Machina Dance 

Just when you think you’re gonna bust some heavy-duty grey matter getting to grips with the premise of top class AI drama: Ex Machina, so Professor Isaac – really unexpectedly – teaches us how to cut up the dance floor – yeah! This was destined to be THE Magic Moment Of The Year, until we gawped at: 

1. The Sandstorm from Mad Max: Fury Road

Let’s face it, all two hours of this exhilarating high-octane thrill-ride exudes movie magic of the highest calibre, but you can enjoy this classic scene right here: 

And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The cake!

Best Movie Of The Year

So, what provided the most outstanding viewing experience of the year?

  • It was wonderful to be able to marvel at a new Star Wars movie, but although it was great to have new exciting characters and elements to savour, feelings that we were watching a retread of the 1977 original still filtered through.
  • The Martian certainly provided our happiest visit to the cinema together this past year.
  • Ex Machina is the solidly-written, well-crafted thought-provoking movie that the genre cries out for, but:

The frenetic energy, stunts, and sheer irresistible spectacle of Mad Max: Fury Road clinches it!

Last, but not least, is the:

Outstanding Contribution To Film

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Douglas Slocombe was a British cinematographer of exceptional skill. Some of his film credits: Kind Hearts And Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The Italian Job (1969) and the Indiana Jones trilogy, read like a list from the Bradscribe Hall of Fame. 

He passed away last Monday aged 103. As a tribute, here is perhaps his most iconic work: 

So, congrats to Max. Your cake is thoroughly well-deserved. 

While compiling this Post, we were delighted to learn last night that Fury Road secured a mightily impressive hoard of six Oscars: Costume Design; Editing; Make-Up; Production Design; Sound Editing; and Sound Mixing. 

But why stop there? Best Actress should have gone to Theron; moreover, Fury Road deserves Best Picture…

Officially the top cinematic sensation of 2015, show us your appreciation, Max: 

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Oh, what a year! What a lovely year!

And they discovered water on Mars. Which was nice. 

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Quasi-Scientific Powers: A Blog About Magic

Is There Any Argument To Include ‘Magic’ In Science Fiction?

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“Magic is, by definition, not science. It is, therefore, that which cannot be entertained within science fiction. Its banishment, however, has been less than total” – Brian Stableford. 

Perhaps the best way to tell the difference between science fiction and fantasy is that while the former emphasizes science, a great deal of fantasy deals with magic. 

By definition, magic is the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. Imagine magic disciplined into an “applied” science. Some SF writers have dabbled in it, leading to a varied array of stories about magic, or – more precisely – quasi-scientific powers.

It’s all James George Frazer’s fault. In The Golden Bough: A Study In Magic and Religion (1890), magic is represented as a kind of proto-science based on presumed natural laws: the law of similarity and the law of contagion. The first states that one can influence a process by imitating it, or influence an object by operating upon a likeness of it; the second states that objects once in contact remain associated, so that – ah, stuff it: anyone fancy any cake?

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“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” – Arthur C. Clarke. 

No matter how determined SF authors have been in shutting out the mysterious lure of magic, they have invariably kept returning to it. It is said that one branch of specialised (science-based) jargon can easily pass into fantasy territory; strict boundaries btween the two no longer apply. Why should there be any boundaries in fiction?  

As just one example, psionic power can be converted into witchcraft, and vice versa. The combination of “careful extrapolation and absurd premises” fuelled the fantasy that appeared in “Unknown Worlds,” at one time a short-lived companion magazine to Astounding Science Fiction. One of its most notable stories was “The Devil Makes The Law,” (aka “Magic, Inc”) by Robert Heinlein.

A number of SF authors have toyed with pseudoscientific versions of supernatural phenomena. The shape-shifting inherent in “There Shall Be No Darkness” (1950) by James Blish comes to mind. The world really thrives on the mythology of magic in Black Easter (1968) by James Blish, while a world “where magic works and has been disciplined for application” featured in Poul Anderson’s Operation Chaos (1971).

Yet perhaps the most awesome SF/fantasy crossover is the The Book of the New Sun, a four-volume series by Gene Wolfe. He pioneered the innovative concept of “science fantasy” whereby conventional science fiction was rearranged into a new “posthistoric” Dark Age centuries after the collapse of our own civilization.

The first volume: The Shadow of the Torturer (1980) carries one of my all-time favourite SF book covers (see above), so – if the whole series can be found this Winter during my festive book hunt – then some thoroughly enjoyable reading is in order!

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“I’d like to see little girls playing Avengers in the playground and doing the Scarlet Witch hand gestures” – Elizabeth Olsen.   

While scientific mishaps created (most of) the comic book heroes we know and love today, there are plenty of mystical mavericks ready to fight for justice, especially in Marvel Comics.

Leading the way, dazzling the least-suspecting with her luminous pink hex power is the Scarlet Witch. Wanda Maximoff became one of the most prominent female members of the Avengers; she married everyone’s fave android-in-green-tights: the Vision. 

The mutant mystic made her big screen debut this year in Avengers: Age of Ultron, played by Elizabeth Olsen. Apparently, her character’s powers were useless against the real dangers of filming: “You’re looking around and it’s like all these prestigious actors dressed up in costumes and none of us could stop laughing because we kept screwing up the scene.”  The actress confirms that the Scarlet Witch will make a second appearance in next May’s Captain America: Civil War and the next Avengers adventures.

Sure, my comics radar was well aware of Dr. Strange: the Master of the Mystic Arts, but somehow, his title never appealed. Even when you’re seven years old, a moustachioed man in a mini-skirt, with tights, does not look cool.  

However, having realised (in my teenage years) that he was actually wearing a long tunic, and some of his comics (from the early 80s) were actually quite impressive, the prospect of seeing him on the big screen is intriguing; the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch has signed on to play him has only piqued my interest further. It’s not due for release until 4 November next year, so that leaves plenty of time to catch up with the doctor’s exploits (back issues).

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“m’I tuo fo ym ecaf” – Zatanna Zatara. 

DC Comics – not to be outdone – have their own formidable canon of mystic heroes.

Perhaps this stable’s best-known mystic is Zatanna, who made her debut in Hawkman #4 in 1964. Most notable for her odd knack of casting spells backwards, not only is she more glamorous than either Dr. Fate or the Spectre, but her fondness for white rabbits should be generously rewarded.  

This black-clad, top-hatted, curvaceous conjuror just happens to be embroiled in DC’s Identity Crisis storyline, with all its magical mind-wiping madness. 

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“Pick up any one of the Essential Defenders reprint trades and you’ll see the Hulk and the Silver Surfer venturing into the worlds of magic with the Atlantean prince Namor. Rocking” – Charlie Jane Anders. 

Despite his penchant for blue tights and yellow helmet and cape, there was nothing about Dr. Fate that made me want to grab his comic. Funnily enough, whenever his so-called ongoing series was revived, it never lasted long – so it seems unlikely that we will see him on the big screen any time soon.

So, is there any room in this dizzying technological age for a little bit of hocus-pocus?

You could fly from one side of this galaxy to the other, see a lot of “strange stuff,” but never see anything to make you believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everyone. No mystical energy field controls my destiny! It’s all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.

Or is it…?

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Abracadabra!

Blurred Vision: Where Is The Android Avenger?!

Then, silently, effortlessly… like some great, vengeful bird of prey… he swoops into the moonless, cloud-draped sky. Behold… the Vision! 

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“What difference if I have the same brain waves? I AM UNIQUE! I am THE VISION…! And thus… I am content” – The Vision.  

Another month, another Avengers trailer… but still no sign of him. Unfortunately, this veteran comic book afficionado has yet to see that member of the Avengers who drew his attention to the title all those years ago! Naturally, when the first Avengers movie came in 2012, it was assumed that the amazing android known as The Vision would get his big screen debut there and then, but… nah. 

The latest trailer turned out to be quite a letdown; no Vision, and neither Maximoff siblings: Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver for that matter. Incidentally, there were hardly any shots of Ultron himself; worryingly, there was emphasis on a Hulk vs. Iron Man face-off which, quite frankly, is the last thing my tired retinas want to absorb right now. There is, therefore – unsurprisingly – a distinct lack of excitement from this corner of the blogosphere…

With just three months until Age of Ultron is released, there is only conceptual art of the android Avenger to whet my appetite, and this is made more frustrating by Breaking News that the Vision will have an extended role in the cinematic universe – it now “seems likely” that the Vision will appear again in Captain America: Civil War (June 2016)

How ironic: we are unable to see The Vision now!

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“He has the ability to change his density and that’s awesome… Vision is able to do something otherworldly and it’s kind of great. And he’s discovering it all as he goes along” – Paul Bettany. 

As a highly advanced synthetic being – even he describes himself as “a thing of plastoid flesh – synthetic blood” – the Vision can alter his molecular density to not only fly, but pass through solid walls and floors; as an eight year old, that was the coolest thing you could possibly see, and is probably the sole reason why he is so well-respected. In addition, he can shoot energy beams (from the jewel encrusted in his forehead). Astoundingly, despite being artificial, he had taken Scarlet Witch as his wife. Thus, his back-story had acquired tremendous depth and significance.

Having provided the voice of J.A.R.V.I.S. in the Iron Man films (and the first Avengers movie of course), it does not sound so surprising that British actor Paul Bettany was cast as The Vision. Although quite understandably reticent to reveal too much about his upcoming character, Bettany did explain that having only recorded lines, he’d never actually watched any of the Marvel movies; as preparation for the role, he sat through all of them. Just how can anyone “prepare” to portray such an enigmatic figure?

Apart from alluding to the extravagance of the sets: “we were in a set that felt like a town,” it is most curious that we actually know so little about his onscreen persona. Come on! The waiting and anticipation is anxious enough as it is… We’ve barely been given any insight into his costume, what and how much action he will deliver, or even what his dialogue will be like. Heck, what will he sound like?! 

And you know, that release date fast approaches… 

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“No… no! It’s some sort of unearthly inhuman vision!” – Janet Pym. 

As new intriguing Avengers news filters through, it does appear slightly annoying that The Vision is referred to as the team’s newest member! This distinctive, green-skinned character was created by writer Roy Thomas and artist John Buscema, making his debut in Avengers #57 (1968). Originally constructed by Ultron as a villainous machine programmed to destroy the Avengers, the Vision betrayed his master and sided with the superhero team instead. At one time, the Vision became leader of the Avengers; it would later be revealed that the Vision’s body was the remains of the original Human Torch. As for the odd name, Ant-Man’s girlfriend unwittingly provided that in one of the series’ more memorable speech bubbles…

Out of all the mind-blowing characters to have graced the Marvel Comics Universe, The Vision must surely count as one of the most extraordinary. Reading some Avengers comics, my attention was always drawn towards the more bizarre characters like Ant-Man, The Beast, even Thor if you will, and of course, The Vision. So, “ordinary dudes” like Captain America and Iron Man were never really going to appeal, and yet, right now, they have both dominated the Big Screen in their own separate highly successful series’, plus had hefty roles in the 2012 movie together.

Okay, so the Vision hasn’t made an appearance in the first movie and neither trailer for the second thus far. Still, no reason to feel upset…

…or is there?

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Avengers: Age of Ultron will be released 24 April in the UK and 1 May in the US.